SMU geothermal scientist Maria Richards becomes first woman president of the Geothermal Resources Council


Maria Richards, SMU Geothermal Laboratory

Maria Richards, coordinator of the SMU Geothermal Laboratory in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, has become the 26th president of the Geothermal Resources Council (GRC), as announced by the GRC on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. She is the first woman president in the history of the global energy organization.

The GRC is an international geothermal body that focuses on continuing professional development for its members through its outreach, information transfer and education services.

Richards has been at the forefront of SMU’s geothermal energy research for more than a decade, and the University’s mapping of North American geothermal resources is considered the baseline for U.S. geothermal energy exploration. SMU’s Conference on Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields, which she directs, is pioneering the transition of oil and gas fields to electricity-producing systems by harnessing waste heat and fluids.

Her projects range from computer-generated temperature-depth maps for to on-site geothermal exploration of the volcanic islands in the Northern Mariana Islands. Along with Cathy Chickering Pace, she also coordinates the SMU Node of the National Geothermal Data System funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Recently, Richards and her colleagues completed a high-resolution shallow Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) potential analysis for the Cascades region of the U.S. Pacific Northwest for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Her other projects include the Eastern Texas Geothermal Assessment, the Dixie Valley Synthesis, and the resource assessment for the influential MIT report The Future of Geothermal Energy.

She previously served on the GRC Board of Directors and was chair of the Outreach Committee in 2011-12. She was also a Named Director of the 2015 Board for the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA).

Richards holds an M.S. degree in physical geography from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a B.S. in environmental geography from Michigan State University.